I’ve posted before about the complete incompetence of the Transportation Security Administration and the ineptitude of their bureaucratic, reactionary, and ineffective policies. While we have made some inroads into restoring our freedom and sanity a decade and a half after that horrible day in 2001, every so often a story like this comes up and illustrates just how far we still have to go.
Videographer Sean Malone was flying out of LAX when one of the front-line TSA robots noticed something peculiar in his carry-on bag. Suspicious, perhaps, but upon further inspection, a reasonable human being would determine this item to be of no threat to any flight.
This, sadly, was no reasonable human being. Malone tells the story:
They called it a “replica” of a weapon….
First, they did a bag check, which happens to me every time I fly anyway, so who cares. When I walked over, the guy said, “Yeah, there’s something in there that’s kind of shaped like a gun,” to which I replied, “Yeah. It’s a belt buckle.”…
He pulled it out of the bag and looked at it. Yep. Belt buckle. He didn’t seem like an idiot, but he called his supervisor over, who instantly made it clear to me that she was one of those petty authoritarian, logic-impaired idiots you often come to expect in positions of middling power in law enforcement. Her word was law… Even when, you know, it wasn’t actually law. She said, “Listen, you can either go back out of security and put this in your check luggage (which I don’t have), or we’ll confiscate it.”
But this is honestly my favorite belt buckle, and I’m me, so – realizing I was speaking with a woman with the brainpower of a block of Parmesan cheese – I looked at her and said, “You understand that this is a belt buckle, right? It is not a danger to the safety of anyone nor is it against the law to carry. I have also traveled with this belt buckle all over the country and it’s never been a problem. So please explain to me how exactly you would justify taking it.”
Her response was to suggest a hypothetical scenario. “What if”, she postulated, “you take this object out of your bag and point it – like a gun – at a police officer? He would have no choice to assume that it was a gun, and take action against you.”
Now… Let’s leave aside for a second that the entire premise behind this argument is that police officers are too dumb and hopped up on their own power that they can’t recognize a dangerous weapon from a belt buckle in the shape of a 1950’s toy ray gun. I’m glad she recognized this reality, but I don’t think she really processed what it says about law enforcement in America. But leaving that aside… Why in the hell would I ever take my belt buckle and point it at a police officer?
To this, she had no answer.
She also had no answer to the point that even if I did that, it would represent a danger to me and not, say… an airplane full of people.
At this point, she got red in the face and loudly declared that she wasn’t going to argue with me or “have a debate about this”. “You have two options. That’s it,” she said. So I asked to speak with *HER* supervisor. Fine. She took the belt buckle and walked it over to some other guy far out of earshot and talked to him for a bit while someone else came over and talked to me. Also seemed like a fairly reasonable guy.
Eventually the woman came back, curtly handed me the buckle and said, “Here you go. Have a good flight, sir.”
— I was super late at LAX and I basically got to stage two where mid level supervisor said I couldn’t take it on the plane and didn’t have enough time to argue up the chain of command.
The agent at LAX said that it’s policy to reject all replica weapons.
I pointed out that even if it was a “replica”, which is dubious, it would be a replica of a fictional weapon used by Flash Gordon… Which, you know, makes confiscation of the belt buckle even MORE insane than it already was.